Paris, Jul 2017
Mystery Escape have games in two locations, so if playing make sure you go to the right branch! We booked in for their Mayan game, in which an asteroid is hurtling towards Earth and a mysteriously well-preserved Mayan pyramid may hold the key to stopping it.
How impressed you’ll be with the way this room looks will depend on how much of a stickler you are for realism. On the one hand, it has decent Mayan tomb decor with decorations that get increasingly impressive as the game goes on; and it uses good quality multimedia at a couple of points too. On the other hand, the decor aims for atmosphere more than anything that could actually be mistaken for an ancient tomb, and is unembarrassed about plentiful use of padlocks and anachronistic effects.
We had a frustrating start to the game, with an early puzzle that I’d describe as definitely too cryptic. We guessed at what turned out to be the correct sort of approach to interpreting the clue, though it seemed quite a stretch; but even then there were at least six different ways to follow that through to a padlock code. We eventually got there only through heavy hinting; we were talking through a list of all the various options the code could be, and upon saying one of them we received the hint: “correct, well done!”. So not the most satisfying way to get past the puzzle, though less frustrating than it would have been to sit there churning through every possibility on each padlock.
That was the most painful point, but similar moments of ambiguity recurred in the rest of the game. In most cases it seemed like it would have been easy enough to eliminate, so may have been included intentionally as a way of making it harder for teams to progress.
The hint system is clever if arguably not entirely a natural fit for the theme. It includes a progress bar to show how far through the game the players have got, which is a useful touch; against that, there’s no time display in the room except as part of the hint message, meaning that players can only see time remaining when a hint is being received.
In other respects it’s a fairly strong game. The structure is somewhat non-linear but divided into phases. Hand-made and often hand-painted wooden components suit the theme and feel satisfyingly solid. Ambiguities aside the puzzle content isn’t unusually challenging but has plenty of variety, and builds up to an impressive finale that gives a clear conclusion to the game.